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We Can Always Act on Non-Criticized Ideas

I originally wrote this for the Beginning of Infinity email list in Jan 2012.

Consider situations in the general form:

X disagrees with (conflicts with) Y about Z.

X and Y could be people. (Really: ideas in people.)

Or they could be ideas within one person.

One or both could be criticisms (explanations of mistakes, rather than positive ideas about what's good).

Z, by the way, might be more than one thing. X and Y can also be multi-part.

Let's consider a more specific example.

X is some idea, e.g. that I'll have pizza for dinner.

Y is a criticism of X, e.g. that I haven't got enough money to afford pizza.

So, what happens? I use an option that I have no criticism of. I get a dinner I can afford.

Now we'll add more detail to make it harder. This time, X also includes criticism of all non-X dinner plans, e.g. that they won't taste like pizza (and pizza tastes good, which is a good thing).

Now I can't simply choose some other dinner which I can afford, because I have a criticism of that.

To solve this, I could refute the second part of X and change my preferences, e.g. by figuring out that something else besides pizza is good too. Or I could acquire some more money. Or adjust my budget.

There's always many ways forward that I would potentially not have any criticism of.

What if I get stuck? I want pizza, because it's delicious, but I also don't want pizza, because I'm too poor. Whatever I do I have a criticism of it. I try to think of ideas like adjusting my budget, or eating something else, but I don't see how to make them work.

There is a simple, generalized approach. I don't have to think haphazardly and hope I find an answer.

All conflicts, as we've been discussing, always raise new problems. In particular:

X disagrees with (conflicts with) Y about Z.

If we don't solve this directly, it raises the problem:

Given X disagrees with (conflicts with) Y about Z, then what should I do?

This is a new problem. And it has several positive features:

1) This technique can be repeated unlimited times. If I use the technique once then get stuck again, I can use the technique again to get unstuck.

2) In general, any solutions we think of for this new problem will not be criticized by any of the criticisms we already had in mind. This makes it relatively easy to come up with a solution we don't have any criticism of. All those criticisms we were having a hard time with are not directly relevant.

3) Every application of this technique provides an *easier problem* than we had before. So we don't just get a new problem, but also an easier one. This, combined with the ability to use the technique repeatedly, lets us make our problem situation as easy as we like.

Why do the problems get progressively easier? Because they are progressively less ambitious. They accept various things, for the moment, and ask what to do anyway, instead of trying to deal with them directly.

The new problems are also more targeted to dealing with the specific issue of finding a way to move forward. This additional focus, instead of just on figuring stuff out generally, makes it easier. It tends towards a minimal solution.

In the context of disagreements between persons, the problems this technique generates progressively tend towards less cooperation, which is easier. In the context of ideas within a person, it's basically the same thing but a little harder to understand.

So, that's why this is true (which I'd written previously):
Premise: there is an available option that one doesn't have a criticism of (and it can be figured out fast enough even in time pressure)
Because we can get past any sticking points, in a simple way, while also reducing our problem(s) to easier problem(s) as much as necessary. (It only works the purpose of figuring out an option for how to proceed, not for any conflict of ideas. But we only have time limits in the context of needing to proceed or act or choose.)

See also: http://fallibleideas.com/avoiding-coercion

Elliot Temple on July 11, 2013


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